Shot to Hell

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A Texas airman entered into an agreement that allowed him to serve 21 days in confinement, be docked $500 in pay and receive a nonpunitive discharge. A Marine in San Diego was court-martialed for disobeying an order, reduced in rank, forced to give-up two-thirds of his pay, sentenced to 30 days confinement and given a bad-conduct discharge. An Alaskan airman with only months to go in her stint in the Air Force was demoted to the lowest possible rank when she refused the shots.

Others get into trouble for merely questioning the safety of the program. At the Marine Air Corps Station in Yuma, some who expressed reservations about taking the shot were called on the carpet and pressured into taking the vaccine. Those who refused were sent to the brig, according to one person familiar with the situation who was fearful of being identified.

Captain Winston Jimenez, public affairs officer at the Yuma installation, contradicts this, however, saying that out of approximately 2,500 troops that have begun the shots there, none has refused and none has been disciplined. This is because of "a tremendous job of informing [and] educating," he says.

When and if Sonnie Bates is given a less-than-honorable discharge, it will cost him not only his job and salary, but all of his benefits, including medical and retirement. And such a black mark would effectively erase his years of federal service were he to apply for a job at another federal agency, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, he says.

"It's just going to be an absolute hit for our family," Bates says. "But I think we'll be the better for it. I tell my kids happiness is not tied to financial means. You have to fight for what you think is right."

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Laura Laughlin
Contact: Laura Laughlin